Posted by Mihal Levy
I figured my son and I could use a little socializing, so where better than a place I heard of called the Treehouse Social Club. Besides the pseudo treehouse, nothing else was true about the name “Treehouse Social Club.” There was nothing social about it and it was not a club.
The Treehouse Social Club, located on Robertson and Burton Way, is well, basically, an indoor playground for kids. After circling around the block a few hundred times, we found parking. My son was a trooper and was ready to take on the Treehouse.
From the outside, the place looked cute and resembled a café with small tables on a patio covered by a huge awning with a woodsy feel. But can you judge a book by its cover? Sometimes, I must admit. Not in this case.
We headed inside. We were caged (literally) between two gates surrounded by a few scattered toys for sale and a register. There was no one around. After a two- minute wait and a few bouts of “hello, anyone here?” we were finally helped.
“Hi, can I help you?”
I smiled and asked if they were open. I could hear my own echo as I spoke, as the place was deserted and apparently not acoustically appealing either. They were open, but my son and I were the only ones there. The woman behind the counter made an excuse for the deserted playground. Evidently, I came at a bad time - nap time. She told me that it was usually empty at this hour, but should be packed within an hour. Nap time for every child in Beverly Hills? There aren’t at least five children awake at 1:00pm? Is my child off the “normal” nap track (great, now I’m failing as a mother, too)?
I figured we should go in - why not?
Nine dollars later, we were in. The place was dark. Were the lights out on purpose? Calming effect? Broken? There was a huge slide in the center of the play area with a only a few broken/dirty toys. Oh no. My son headed straight to the train table. No trains. The sign above the table read: “Trains must be checked out at the front desk, with ID.” Well, my son didn’t bring his ID, so guess it was all me. I headed to the front desk. No one was there. It was starting to feel a little creepy. My son did not seem to mind that he was the only one with dibs on the slide and toys. He was having fun sliding down the huge slide (hope he got nine dollars worth of sliding fun).
We gave up on the trains and walked around trying to find something for him to do. There was a room with art supplies and a table covered in broken crayons, dirty paint brushes, spilled paint, and artwork left from earlier in the day, perhaps. Cleaning up was not in the agenda? We did not know if we should or were allowed to go into this room, so we didn’t. And there was no one around to ask. It was getting freaky, frankly.
We headed into the bathroom to wash our hands. It smelled like a dirty diaper-filled diaper champ clear out into the playground before entering the bathroom. I went to wash my son’s hands and noticed the sign above the sink: “Only hot water is working.” Which is so convenient for a three-year-old hand washing. That’s okay, I noticed hand sanitizers on the wall in the play area. I checked the first one…empty. The second…I pressed and some strange bubbling sound came out and seeped brown foam. This didn’t look right and not very sanitizing, only I couldn’t wash it off, unless I could tolerate scalding hot water. I took my chances and washed my hands with the hot water for a mere couple of seconds before the water went from unbearably hot to boiling. Fun.
An hour had passed and we were still the only ones not napping in Los Angeles at this hour. And the only reason I hung around was because my son was enjoying the slide after all and I waited to see when the crowd would storm in. I followed my son around the playground and made sure he skipped the dirty toys. He discovered an area with a Wii and a sign that read, “see attendant.” So we saw the attendant. She apologized, “sorry all the games are broken except for ‘cheering,’” and walked away. So, I assumed cheering was out of the question for my son?
Then the crowd swarmed in within minutes. Her name was Chloe, she was two and came in with her mom. It stayed this way for another half hour, when I decided it was time to leave.
In Treehouse’s defense, I read reviews before taking my son there and they were mixed. Reviews ranged from people who absolutely loved the place and from those that rated it one or two stars and would not return. How could reviews vary so much? Did it really matter what day you chose to go there and the mood of the person behind the counter? Was it cleaner on other days as well. They served food too, by the way, but who could eat in the diaper champ filled air and who would I order from anyway? No one was around.
The concept of the place was a good one, but implementation…not so much. And maybe the reason it was empty had nothing to do with naptime for every toddler in LA after all.
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October 14, 2009 | 2:30 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
Rain in Lala Land is almost nonexistent, so when it rained yesterday for the first time in forever, it was like a miracle. I expected manna to fall from the sky next or Noah in his Ark turning the corner outside my living room window. My son was so excited as he watched the rain fall outside. I half expected him to forget what rain was since I can’t remember the last time he saw it, except maybe on a Barney video.
I then did what any good mother would do and donned my son in his coat and rain boots that he squeezed into from last year and had only wore once or twice, and sent him out in the rain…to splash in the puddles of course.
After a run around in the rain, we made a pumpkin pie. Baking cookies is overrated. (And besides, I had to test out my pumpkin pie before Thanksgiving, and will probably have to “test it out” a few more times by Thanksgiving, too.) We had it for lunch…not the whole thing.
At the end of the day, my son told me that he had so much fun today. I don’t know if that was because I let him eat pie for lunch or what, but whatever the reason, it was a great day. And I realized that playgrounds and theme parks may be lots of fun, but sometimes eating pie for lunch and splashing in the rain can be just as fun but without the overpriced souvenirs.
No Bake Pumpkin Pie recipe (revised from this month’s version in Good Housekeeping Magazine)
1 6 oz. graham cracker crust
2 packages vanilla pudding
1 cup cold milk (or soy milk substitute)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 ½ cups whipped topping
chocolate or caramel syrup to top
1 spray can of whipped cream
Drizzle chocolate syrup into pie shell.
Beat pudding mixes, milk, pumpkin, and spices until blended.
Stir in whipped topping.
Pour into crust.
Spray whipped cream on top of pumpkin mixture.
Drizzle chocolate or caramel syrup over the whipped cream.
Refrigerate and serve.
October 12, 2009 | 2:30 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
You know that intrinsic sixth sense that children have? Not the “I see dead people” kind, but the just-knowing sense, as in knowing that they like or dislike a certain situation or person. I call this “kidstinct.” And I have found that a kid’s instinct or kidstinct is usually right on. As we get older, this seems to get blurred. My son has proven this time and time again, literally since birth. No, I don’t think my son is Superboy, allergic to Kryptonite or anything like that. In fact, I believe that all children possess this gift. Yes, gift.
Let me explain. Since he was an infant, he has known which friends and family members he liked, and those that he could not stand. When he was an infant he knew which family members he wanted to hold him and those that did not feel right. Of course at the time I thought this was coincidental (rather, the belief that it was coincidental was forced upon me by those particular family members that he outright disliked).
There was (and still is) one person in particular, who has been coming around since my son was an infant, whom my son has detested. As an infant, as soon as my son would see him, he would start to cry and even scream. Let’s call him Mr. Sunshine (who is anything but sunshine, and I have to admit he resembles a child molester. If there was a particular look for a child molester, Mr. Sunshine has it in the bag).
Mrs. Sunshine and her children would quickly chime in and make excuses, of course at the expense of my son…or me: “He’s colicky. It’s just gas. Are you feeding him enough?” Funny as it was, as soon as Mr. Sunshine left, my son was all smiles.
As my son got older and was able to express himself, he would simply walk away and say things like “Bye Bye” or “Go!” And still today, at age three, whenever he sees Mr. Sunshine or even a picture of him, he says. “I don’t like you. You are a scary guy. Yucky man.” My husband and I try to cover this up and be polite. We find ourselves having to make excuses when we run into Mr. S. “It must be your hat or that jacket.” But all I really want to say to him is, “it is probably because you are a scary, yucky man, and I’m not fond of you either, frankly. But, you fit somewhere in our family tree, and thus, the reason that we see you again is that we have to. Cream and sugar with your coffee?”
I have never told my son (and never would) that I agree with him that Mr. S is a creepy man and probably finds some sick amusement in sitting on a park bench watching children play in the sand box. In Mr. Sunshine’s defense (which is difficult to say when both my husband and I agree with my son), he has never done anything outwardly wrong to my son, although there have been actions on Mr. S’s part towards other people that have absolutely reinforced my son’s instinct (we’ll just leave it at that). It is just his normal Sunshine self.
We would have definitely limited contact with this family if we could, but the whole related business keeps us connected. Such fun.
So, Mr. Sunshine, if you are reading this, just know that it is not of my doing or my husband’s, it is simply kidstinct. And kidstinct hasn’t failed us yet. It has saved my son from running into a stranger’s arms, walking over the edge of a cliff and befriending those he doesn’t want to befriend. And know that it is not “just gas.” It’s you.
October 9, 2009 | 3:10 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
It wasn’t until I was playing follow the leader with my son today (even though I could still barely move from my sinus meds) that I realized we were living in a time of “following.” Following the biggest loser, the so-you-think-you-can-dance dancers, bachelors, bachelorettes, American idols, America’s talented and just about anyone and everyone on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Why have we become obsessed with following everyone? Maybe because their lives are so much more entertaining, maybe to prove that they are just ordinary people like everyone else. Hey…just because you think you can dance doesn’t mean you can or that is all you do, right? It’s like the sections in all the Hollywood gossip magazines. “They are Just Like Us.” No, really, did you have to tell me that? Then there’s a picture of some superstar walking their dog, driving a car, picking up their mail. Shocking, isn’t it?
Following each other is pretty exciting, I will have to admit. Otherwise, how would I know that an acquaintance I had in high school is now living in Montana and doing the dishes at this very moment. Or how else would I know which Disney princess a friend of mine was most like or what his/her score is on 80’s movie trivia. How would I know that my 5th grade BFF literally lives a few blocks away and I haven’t seen her in over twenty years (did I just date myself)? I especially love the tweets and updates with daily affirmations. If not for those, how would I keep on going with my day unless I knew that “a journey begins with the first step?”
It keeps me connected with anyone and everyone. No need to meet up with friends to find out how they are doing, I simply read their tweet or Facebook update and voila…I know. No need for “let’s catch up.” I’ve already been caught up from your “all about me” sections.
I have to admit, it’s not all that bad. I have met great people (not in person, of course), gotten in touch with old classmates, friends and family and now even my mother knows what I am doing and where I am at all times (according to my updates).
So, if you are on Facebook or Twitter…feel free to add me. Twitter: Jew_Mama (make sure to include the underscore, otherwise you will be adding someone else). Facebook: Jew Mama.
I look forward to meeting you…virtually.
October 7, 2009 | 3:41 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
Time-outs are important, and I’m not talking about the ones for kids when they have done something wrong (that makes for another blog). I’m talking about time out for Mom.
Do you ever feel like your wheels are spinning and you can’t slow down? Like you are running on empty? If you answered “no” to these two questions, please tell me, what’s your secret? Hallucinogens?
The words “slow” or “slow down” are not in my vocabulary. Between writing, errands, chores and entertaining my son, it seems I’m always doing things half as great as I could…or at least I think so. Taking a break often seems like a waste of time. And of course if I finally take a break, all I find myself doing is thinking about what I should be doing.
For the last few days, I’ve been taking a break. No cleaning, no cooking, no thinking (well trying the latter at least), but not of my own accord. I’ve been under the weather and on antibiotics along with make-me-drowsy, can’t-move medications for some sort of weather changing sinus pressure fun.
So here I am, lying in bed and typing, crawling in my skin, wanting to run around. The drowsiness is wearing off, although not as quickly as I’d like it to. But I’ve learned a lot, and how many times must I relearn this over and over again?
If you don’t find the time for a time-out, it will find you.
October 5, 2009 | 1:30 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
With 85,000 applications available for the iPhone, you can stream videos, go onto your favorite social networks, play games, read countless books and play instruments…just to name a few. You can now cook on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Well, not cook on your phone, but with the help of your phone with Kosher Cookbook.
Kosher Cookbook is a brand new application, launched in time for the High Holidays, and on the “What’s Hot” list in the iTunes App Store. From chicken soup and tzimmis to moussaka, the cookbook doesn’t stick to your basic Jewish foods. The Kosher Cookbook offers 300 recipes, 50 Shabbat meal plans, and over 150 photos, all from the comfort of your own phone. But wait – there’s more! No, you don’t get a set of Ginsu knives for ordering, but you do get customizable meal plans and an ingredient list that turns into a shopping list. The list also allows you to uncheck items you already have on hand. Just grab your phone and head to the supermarket. The recipes are broken up into categories by dessert, breakfast, appetizer, parve, meat, dairy, and “my recipes,” where you can bookmark your favorites. You can further filter results by type of cuisine, food type, or course.
Alexander Libkind, CEO of APPSolute Media, came up with the idea for the cookbook about a year ago. “We were looking to create a user experience that starts at the meal planning stage and takes the user all the way to taking the food from the oven, and Gloria Kobrin’s cookbook was the perfect product for the app,” so they included her recipes.
According to Libkind, within the next few months they will be adding whole new books, as well as updates released before the end of the year.
These updates include:
1) The ability to email your shopping list to another person or directly to the store.
2) The ability to add your own items to the premade shopping lists.
3) More recipes and cookbooks.
Although I have not tried any of the recipes yet, I have skimmed through the application, which seems user friendly and easy to navigate. I also skimmed through the recipes and found them to be quite basic like Franks ‘N’ Beans or Breadcrumb Stuffing. There are a few that stood out for me, however, such as the Fudgey Flourless Chocolate Cake, Coconut Chewies and Moussaka (Pareve). I am willing to give it a try. Alexander’s favorite is the Spare Ribs with Hoisin Sauce, which his wife cooked on Rosh Hashana, “and it turned out amazingly great reviews.” Another one he recommends is Armenian Meatballs with Sour Plum Sauce.
Kosher Cookbook is available in the iTunes App Store for $4.95, which is a lot cheaper than most cookbooks and won’t wind up lost in the shuffle between the countless others on your bookshelf or countertop.
October 2, 2009 | 2:29 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
I can’t believe these classes offered for toddlers. Gymnastics, guitar, piano, ice skating, sculpting, painting, knitting, typing, ballet and hip hop dancing. Rock climbing and fencing, now that’s just too much. Just another scheme to suck mommy into, and make a buck or two or $275 per session. What are these mom’s thinking? What will be left for these kids to learn when they are four years old?
I don’t know what they are thinking.
Bye for now…off take my three year old to his hip hop class…
September 29, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
The month of September is winding down. You know what that means? You guessed it: the end of National ADHD Awareness month. (Ok, so maybe you didn’t guess it. I probably wouldn’t have either.) It’s the end of being aware. So, we move into October, no longer aware of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
ADHD is overrated anyway, isn’t it? Or is it just me? (And this comes from an ex-psychotherapist, yes me…can you believe it?) Seriously, even children are using the excuse that they have ADHD to get out of responsibility. Can you blame them? They couldn’t concentrate on their homework, class assignment or finish their peas because of it. Here’s what I think: we all have ADHD, especially when we’re children, bored in school or simply bored altogether in a situation that does not stimulate us. Even a child diagnosed with ADHD is able to sit still when they are, in fact, interested in something.
In my past life of teaching special education and practicing as a child therapist (ok, not my past life, but many moons ago), I have seen far too many children “drugged” to make their teachers’ jobs easier. Why is it that the teacher is usually the one to suggest the diagnosis? (I would request a copy of her license before she attempts at diagnosing.) Far too many teachers and therapists alike convince parents that there is something wrong with their child. Are we trying to create cookie cutter children? Should all children sit still? Maybe it is the teacher that is not providing enough stimulation for the child.
In my experience, children with “ADHD” (and I put it in quotes, because I believe it has become an all-encompassing label) are children who are extremely intelligent and creative. Are those bad things? What are we teaching our children - if you can’t sit still and pay attention, swallow your Ritalin? Later in life, Valium? Prozac? You get the point.
Why and how have we become a nation where we don’t respect diversity or appreciate creativity? We say we do.
I have included a short list of “symptoms” of ADHD that I consider childhood characteristics, and frankly, often just human characteristics. (Disclaimer - this is not intended to diagnose/undiagnosed your child, just making a general statement, that far too often this diagnosis has gotten out of hand and a quick fix to a problem that is non-existent.) This list was taken from the National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov).
Children with ADHD may:
-Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another. (So when kids go out to the playground and forget their jackets and run from jungle gym to swings to sandbox…ADHD? And if they continuously play on the merry go round only, a different diagnosis would be in order; you can’t win.)
-Have difficulty focusing on one thing. (Because children should always focus on one thing.)
-Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable. (I’m sorry. Wouldn’t anyone get bored doing a task they don’t find enjoyable?)
-Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities. (Because 1st and 2nd graders are so detail-oriented…have you ever seen a six year old lose a homework assignment or pencil? Only if they had ADHD?)
-Not seem to listen when spoken to. (I just picture any little kid with hands over their ears…”I can’t hear you!”)
-Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others. (Others? Who are these others? Because every child processes information the same way? Not so much…)
-Fidget and squirm in their seats. (Every restaurant I have been to that is kid-friendly must be filled with ADHD children, because they are all fidgety and squirming in their seats. How long can you “fine dine” with children? So they colored their placemats with the restaurant-supplied four-color crayon box. They ate. They had their special dessert. They mixed all the condiments in their glass of water. They played their handheld video games. Eventually, it is time to go home. With Ritalin, you may have been able to milk another fifteen to twenty minutes, though.)
-Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time. (I think this was created by angry and tired schoolteachers.)
These are just a few symptoms. Why do we always need to define everything? Does everything have to fit neatly into little boxes? Does stumping a child’s creativity or self-confidence matter? Can we stop diagnosing and start appreciating differences? Maybe then, there would be a lot more people doing what they truly love, instead of what they “should” be doing.